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As an English teacher, I like to get Audible books that are entertaining because I am reading, researching, and grading all the time during the school year. I have loved Twain all my life and have even gone to Hannibal to participate in workshops - which were awesome. When I heard the autobiography was being released, I was thrilled. When I started listening to all the acknowledgements, I thought, "How interesting to know who the people and institutions are who contributed to this great work." Then when it began to sound more like an autobiography of those who edited and sweated and argued and agreed over the many processes that go into the manuscript, I thought, "This is not about Twain but about those who put the book together. So it should be called the AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF CONTRIBUTORS TO TWAIN'S AUTOBIOGRAPHY." I cannot pick up a book or an audio book and not give it fair chance, though, so I trudged on. The first fifteen chapters or so are not what I believe Twain had envisioned for his autobiography. I believe that Twain Scholars would love this book and use bits and pieces in university level classes, but I think Twain wanted it to be published without all the credits to the additional contributors. I have finally reached parts that are uninterruped chapters of Twain, but then between the chapters there are always "discussions" or "commentaries" on what went into putting the book together. In a way, I feel tricked by the way this "autobiography" has been marketed because it is not PURE Twain autobiography. It is too "heavy" for continued interest. I am hoping it "lightens up" with the text Twain intended. I may have to put it away until summer but if I had known that it was going to be a compilation of compilations through the decades of those who contributed, I would not have gotten it and wish I had my credit back. I give it three stars because I know scholars would love it and the Twain sections are satiric with some serious sides of Twain.
97 of 103 people found this review helpful
Grover Gardner is one of the two or three best narrators of Twain, and he does an outstanding job on this (sometimes) difficult material. The difficulty isn't because of Twain's writing, or in this case speaking -- he dictated most of this material, and you can "hear" him sometimes backing up and correcting himself. Twain's writing is one of the wonders of the natural world, and he's the only writer who can make me laugh out loud on the subway.
The difficulty in this case is the background of the project and Twain's design for an autobiography. The audiobook is basically everything in the printed volume except the footnotes. It includes the extensive introduction (how the editors identified the order of the various typescripts), several hours of "false starts" (autobiographical material Twain published elsewhere before settling on this plan), and extensive captions for each section. Gardner's clear and resonant voice keeps everything in perspective, but there's a lot to digest. If you're a Twain fan, you'll be grateful. If you're not, this book wouldn't be your best introduction. It probably helps to have a good grasp of the essentials of Twain's life before going into this one.
It's chronological -- not according to Twain's life, but according to the order of dictation. Twain wanted to combine aspects of diary and autobiography into a single scheme, one that left him the ability to jump from one subject to another as the spirit moved him. And it moved him quite a bit. A given day's dictation could cover six or seven different topics, each with Twain's eye for the illuminating detail and the perfect self-deprecating turn of phrase.
For diehards like me, it's a feast, a cornucopia, an incredible act of generosity on the part of editors, publishers, and reader. But it does require careful listening.
53 of 56 people found this review helpful
Sadly I think that audio is the wrong medium for this book. I found it incredibly frustrating that a large portion of the first part was spent describing how the autobiography was put together and how many times he started it and how it was done ie dictated. There was such minutiae that I was thoroughly bored and just wanted to get on and listen to the book. In fact I think it said somewhere that the introduction was something like 200 pages long. If I had had the book in my hands I could have skipped those pages and gone straight to the autobiography itself. It would have been better to have the academic analysis as a separate item at the end. Similarly there are interjections by the editor that interrupt the flow of the book. I really wasn't interested in the fact that a certain date was considered to be wrong and the incident described was thought to have taken place six months earlier than the author indicated. It would have been better to have a different voice reading those to differentiate between them and the author's words. Having said that the actual autobiography is very entertaining but I think I will buy the book if I want to 'read' it again.
13 of 13 people found this review helpful
It has 2h 15 of talk about writing the book at the start, Frustrating in audio book form as it is hard to know where to skip to.
7 of 7 people found this review helpful